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Friday, September 25 2020

The Upside of Single

 

When someone asks me if there is anything that good about being single, my immediate answer is: freedom, which immediately causes me to picture Mel Gibson in Braveheart gathering the Scottish clansmen and riling them up with that famous “FREEDOM!!!” scream.  I usually then say something like, “what’s not to like?  I can sleep spread out like a starfish in my bed, I don’t have to worry about falling into a raised toilet seat when I have to pee at night, and I never have to share my snacks!”  All joking aside, there are some real perks but also some downsides to being single.  As a long-term single in my forties, I’ve adjusted and made peace with being alone.  However, it wasn’t easy getting to this point.  I spent a lot of years questioning my choices, questioning myself and essentially feeling sorry for myself.  After a relationship, which was an absolute disaster, left me at the lowest point in my life, I finally decided that enough was enough. When I crawled out of my hole of self-pity, and started working on being happy regardless of having someone or not, I came to the conclusion that being single wasn’t so bad.  The more years I have spent single, and the more accustomed I have gotten to it and I’ve realized that my happiness isn’t contingent on whether or not I am in a relationship. 

During the time of being single, take the opportunity to work on some of the things that you may have pushed aside while being coupled up.  Start examining some of the things that you don’t like and address them.  There are some AMAZING self-help books out there.  I’m a huge fan of Brene Brown and how she addresses issues of shame and vulnerability. Do some research and get reading! Also, start noticing the ways you respond to certain things.  One of the big things that I had to work on was that I always thought the grass was greener in someone else’s yard.  I would look at people I follow on social media and see how perfect their lives looked and I would fixate on all of the things I wanted and didn’t have, which cause me to feel depressed and sad.  I had to consciously choose to unfollow certain people or groups and really work on understanding that no one has a perfect life, what we see are snapshots in time that are staged to look perfect.  Honestly, it was a long journey to get where I wasn’t envious of those things anymore.  Another thing to do is to think back on your prior relationships and try to see some areas where you need to work on before entering another relationship.  Do you have codependency problems, self-confidence issues, a difficult time being vulnerable?  Now is the time to fix those so they are not a problem in your next relationship.      

A good way to get started on the journey of self-discovery is to start dating yourself.  That may sound crazy to you, but how else are you going to get to know yourself?  Go to the movies alone, treat yourself to dinner at a fancy restaurant, go on vacation by yourself.  Sit in the quiet and really just let yourself think about things, without the distractions of cell phones, tablets, TV’s and computers; just be totally present in the moment. Really become invested in yourself during this time by finding out what you like and don’t like.

 Another really important aspect of being a long-term single is your network of support; family, friends, groups, people you can depend on.  When you don’t have a spouse to help with things, lean on those you can count on and do the same for them.  Invest in your relationships with family and friends because you will have days where you feel sad and lonely; you need to have people to reach out to and fill those moments of loneliness. If you’re struggling to find a support system, start by getting out and doing new things. Find new ways to integrate doing what you love and connecting with new people.  I promise you, there is a group for everything; from people who like to read to others who want someone to hike with, there are ways to meet new people and make friends.  Fill your life with loved ones and you will never have to worry about not being loved.

For those of you newly single or those who are worried that they will never find someone, remember this:  your happiness depends on you.  When you come to the realization that you don’t need someone to make you happy or to complete you, that you can be happy on your own because you are a whole person; you will feel free.  

Wednesday, September 23 2020

Single again…and again…and again.

Do you find yourself in relationship after relationship always searching for “the one” but never finding them?  Do you often wonder why you always seem to choose the wrong person over and over again, unable to break out of that pattern?  Sometimes we need to look deep into ourselves and reflect on why our relationships never seem to work out and a perfect time to do this is while you are single.  In this second part of the series, we’ll be looking into some of the aspects of DV and SV relationships and why some people seem to gravitate to partners who exhibit those characteristics time and again. 

Working with survivors of sexual and domestic violence, I’ve made some observations that I’d like to share here.  By and large, most domestic violence relationships have some level of sexual violence included in them; that can be from things like coercion, assault and rape.  These destructive relationships can cause a lot of damage to your self-esteem, keep you from trusting your intuition, not really knowing your boundaries, and they usually effect future relationships negatively.  In this world of DV and SV, we usually hear things like, “Why can’t I find a decent guy” or “Why do I always choose the wrong person” and even “Why do I continually accept this type of behavior from someone I’m in a relationship with?”  There are a multitude of factors that can affect your ability to choose a healthy partner, for example, the type of childhood you had. According to womenshealth.gov the long-term effect of growing up in a household where abuse occurs predisposes one to live in a pattern of abuse, the article states, “More than 15 million children in the United States live in homes in which domestic violence has happened at least once. These children are at greater risk for repeating the cycle as adults by entering into abusive relationships or becoming abusers themselves. For example, a boy who sees his mother being abused is 10 times more likely to abuse his female partner as an adult. A girl who grows up in a home where her father abuses her mother is more than six times as likely to be sexually abused as a girl who grows up in a non-abusive home”. So what does this have to do with being single?  The goal is to break that cycle of abuse.  If you’ve left an abusive relationship, now is the time to work on your behavioral patterns so you don’t end up in the same type of relationship.  My advice would be to make a goal of remaining single to give yourself time to do that work, and stick to it.  Once you begin working on things like boundaries, healthy relationships, and self-confidence, you’ll be able to see some red flags in certain people that you may not have realized were there before.  You’ll essentially re-learn how to use and listen to your intuition. 

If you have been sexually assaulted and are single, getting into a new sexual relationship may seem like a very scary and monumental task.  Someone who has been through a sexual assault might have fear and anxiety about sex.  You might be thinking about being triggered by a certain touch or something your partner does.  Maybe you’re worried about being able to trust the most intimate parts of you with someone.  These are very real, and very scary things to deal with.  My suggestion would be to use the time that you are not in a relationship to really explore some of those feelings.  Get reacquainted with your body, what gives you pleasure and what your sexual boundaries are.  A great tool is the book Healing Sex: A Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma by Staci Haines.  Talk to a therapist, join support groups, take this time to work on you and regain some of that control that was taken.  You deserve it! 

Being single doesn’t have to be a fruitless time of just waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right.  This is a time that you can take control of your life and really work on yourself.  Use this time to your benefit!  In the next part of the series, I’ll be addressing what the long-term life of singleness looks like and how it’s not a bad thing, even if society wants us to believe it is.  Please leave your comments below, and as always, please reach out to our helpline if you’ve experienced a sexual assault and would like to talk about it. 

Monday, September 21 2020

 

You may not know this, but the 3rd week of September is National Unmarried and Single Americans Week.  Why is there a whole week dedicated to celebrating life as a single?  I’ve been doing some digging into this and I’ve found some interesting statistics as to why this is an important week.  Did you know that as of the last Census 112 million Americans were listed as single?  That’s around 47% of our entire population.  I suspect that when the new Census numbers come out, it will be an even higher number.  With that being said, as the resident long-term single here at Safe Place, I decided to use this week to highlight some important aspects of the single life and how we can embrace it as a time to grow and learn about ourselves. 

Being single in a world that sees marriage as one of the ultimate life goals has its challenges.  When we are in our twenties and in college, there is an expectation that we will pair up, find our “soulmate”, graduate, get married and live happily ever after.  The university I went to had an unofficial slogan, seen as a goal by most of the girls on campus, which was “ring by spring”.  Talk about pressure!  Those of us who didn’t pair off during that time were looked at with a certain amount of pity for not securing that future.  After college, the pressure continues as we see our friends marrying and having children.  The most common theme at both family and friend get-togethers seems to be, “So, are you dating anyone?”  It becomes exhausting.  On top of that pressure to couple up is the pressure to have children.  Women often hear things like, “the biological clock is ticking”, or “you don’t want to run out of time!”  Does the pressure ever stop?  Sadly, it does not.  I’m now in my mid-forties, and I still feel that pressure. 

Society tells us that we are supposed to want to get married and have kids, but what if we don’t?  Do you then have to spend the rest of your life defending that decision?  The ultimate life-goal should be happiness; whatever that means for you.  Some people will find that happiness in marriage, some in their career, or having children, and others by remaining single.  There isn’t a tried and true, one size fits all equation for happiness.  The socially constructed idea of happily ever after needs to be officially deconstructed.  My idea of happily ever after may not look like yours, and that is perfectly ok!   

The good news is that singles can and do live happy and fulfilled lives without marrying or having children.  Whether it is just a season in your life, or if being single is a lifelong choice, this can be a time of really getting to know yourself, and truly deciding what type of life will make you happy.  So, as this is singles week, I’ll be exploring a few other topics on being single and why singlehood shouldn’t be looked at as something bad.  Please feel free to chime in with your thoughts on being single and how it has impacted your life. 

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Batesville, Indiana 47006
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This project is supported in part (or in whole) by grant, 03215VAGX006403 from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. Views contained herein are those of the author and do not represent the position of USDOJ or ICJI.